Buda Castle - Royal Palace, Budapest
The former Royal Castle is located on the Buda Hill overlooking the Danube, the bridges and the Pest side of Budapest. It was first completed in 1265 but destroyed or damaged several times, during the the Turkish siege of 1529, the Austrian siege of 1686, the siege during the 1848/49 revolution and World War II, all causing major damage. The castle as it can be seen today reflects mainly the building efforts during the reign of Austrian empress Maria Theresia in the second half of the 18th century and the construction during the late 19th century. The interior was more or less gutted during communist rule as an unwanted reminder of "feudal" heritage.
Today, the castle contains the National Gallery, the National Library and the City Museum. Next to the castle is the Sandor Palace, home of the Hungarian president. Several statues can be found on the castle grounds, among them Prince Eugene and a mythical vulture-like bird near the northern castle entrance.
The terrace and the courts of the palace are decorated with some nice sculptural monuments.
The first and most original one sees when arriving by the funicular is the impressive "Turul" a mythological bird, made by Gyula Donáth in 1905, perched on a pillar of the neo-Baroque railing.
Prominently on the terrace overlooking the Danube river and the city stands the equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Beautiful neo-baroque statue made by sculptor József Róna around 1900 for another city that could not pay and so that the statue is now standing on the terrace of the Buda Castle.
My favored one is the spectacular Mathias fountain on the western forecourt of the palace. A group of hunters led by King Matthias standing on rocks with a dead deer and dogs. An excellent work by Alajos Stróbl. It is sometimes called the "Trevi Fountain of Budapest" (less crowded!).
My photo is from before the restoration.
This statue of the horse herd taming a wild horse was facing the riding school. This work of György Vastagh had success and was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1900). It stands in the western forecourt of the palace close to the Matthias Fountain.
The views on the Royal Palace from the Pest side are in daytime and at night one of the nicest castle views I know in Europe.
The location on the Buda hill dominating the wide Danube is exceptional.
The history of the Buda castle is complex and can be read with all details on Wikipedia, but the following is important for the understanding of what the visitors can see now.
Most of the exteriors we can presently see go back to the end of the 19th c.
From the 13th century on the Royal Palace suffered from battles and sieges.
Most destructive was the great siege of 1686 when the Austrian Habsburgs re-captured Buda occupied by the Ottoman army and destroyed the medieval palace.
Next important destruction happened at the end of 1944 when the Buda Castle was the last major stronghold of Budapest held by German and Hungarian Axis forces during the siege of Budapest by the Soviet army. Heavy fights and artillery fire rendered the palace into ruins.
The communist government decided in 1948 a modernist reconstruction plan. The exterior and interior of the palace were thoroughly modernized. The remaining interior, including undamaged rooms and halls were destroyed. Consequently the interior of the Royal Palace would be of no interest for the visitor if there were not the museums! (ref. my "Discovering Hungarian painters and sculptors.").
Important exterior parts that could have been restored were sadly demolished and the remaining façades were simplified.
Fortunately for the present visitors of Budapest these exterior changes are not much visible so that seen from Pest the palace remains quite nice and imo one of the nicest castle views in Europe I have seen.
One of the many excellent viewpoints at Buda Castle is Danube Terrace.
As it is named "Danube Terrace," you can expect wonderful views over the River Danube and the Pest side of Budapest. We happened to strike a thunderstorm, so no sunny pictures for me!
I was happy with the lovely views of the Chain Bridge and the other bridges along the River. I could see the Houses of Parliament in the distance, the old part of Pest, and I loved watching all the Tourist Boats plying the river.
Below the terrace, were the original walls and other terraces, a paved pathway led down and past these.
The best thing is, you can come here and enjoy the views for FREE!
After I had viewed the large mythical Turul bird sculpture, I decided to head down a level to what is known as the Danube Terrace.
To reach this area, I first had to pass through the beautifully decorated Habsburg gate, and then proceed down the double flight of steps, called the Habsburg Steps - these connected the Habsburg room with the Royal Gardens on the Danube terrace. I imagine many famous people would have walked these steps!
In this area of the Palace was the Habsburg Room, situated right in the middle of the long palace complex. Baroque decoration with half-pillars and gilded stuccoes, a vaulted ceiling with a huge fresco "Apotheosis of the Habsburg Dynasty," made this room spectacular.
The Habsburg Room survived World War II, but in the 1950s, it was deliberately destroyed for political reasons.
This is a delightful area of lawn & gardens including statues and fountains.
Just below the steps was an attractive Fishing Children Fountain, created in 1912 by Károly Senyey and restored in 2001. Rather cutely, it shows two children grappling with a fish while water is spouting from its mouth and into the air.
I loved the wrought iron Matthias Gate. Many people walked straight through without stopping, not me though, as this Gate looked like a giant Spiders web and was just too interesting to walk straight through!
The story goes that in the 15th century, Hungary was having trouble hanging onto its' foreign Kings, bloodline and border. All was doom and gloom until the Hungarians looked to a 15 year old boy, Mátyás (Matthias in English) for salvation.
The legend goes that Matthias’ mother sent for him with a Raven with a ring in its beak. The Raven flew non-stop from Transylvania to Prague, and thus, the boy King of Ravens was crowned. The Raven-with-ring motif became part of the family crest, as well as the family name - Corvinus (Latin for “Raven”).
Matthias Corvinus returned to Buda, becoming the first Hungarian-descended king in more than 150 years. He loved Italian Renaissance, the arts and built palaces for their beauty. He dressed up as a commoner and ventured into the streets to see first-hand how the nobles treated his people.
The Raven is the symbol of King Matthias and live birds can be found hopping around the yard. He is considered by Hungarians as the greatest of all kings, so don't be surprised to see the symbol of the Raven with the ring in its beak located around Budapest..
The handle which locks the gate is a little man, I wonder if this is the King?
The gate is open all day, closing at 6pm
The Horse-herd Statue I came across in the Western courtyard of Buda Castle. I really liked this "different" bronze statue, as it was complimented by lovely flower beds and the castle as a backdrop, - Really nice.
The statue is the work of György Vastagh. It was sculpted in 1901, and depicts a horseman from the Hortobágy area, taming a wild horse.
The statue was displayed in the Exposition Universelle in Paris, but was damaged and removed in the 1960's, to be restored and re-located in the western forecourt of the palace in 1983.
As Lions are the symbol of Budapest, you will find many statues of Lions situated around the city.
Statues of Lions abound in Buda Castle.
There is the beautiful Lions' Gate, with four Lions guarding the gate, two on the inside and two on the outside. When I passed through the Lions Gate, I was then in the Lions' courtyard.
The statues were made in 1902, and do vary in stance. One Lion was looking very aggressive, ready to eat anybody trying to pass through the gate, whilst another was quite passive. Another looked majestic and as if he should have been pounding his chest. A closer look at the buildings revealed more Lions, this time just their aggressive heads!
The location of the Ferdinand Gate of Buda Castle, is the area where some of the original medieval remnants are still standing.
Buda was one of their most important western strongholds of the Turkish Empire. This southern end of Buda Castle, was a huge military base that hasn't changed much up till today.
The Mace tower is to the left of Ferdinand Gate. It was built in the 14th century, during the time of King Sigismund. The Turks decided to keep the Tower and set about thickenening and coating the walls, plus renaming it the "Small Frengi tower."
To the right and further down the pathway from Ferdinand Gate, is a path that leads past an impressive Bastion and the Castle walls. Inside, I stopped and took a look through one of the small windows in the Castle walls, and found quite a nice scenic view.
We travelled by public transport to Buda castle, getting off at a bus-stop when we could see the Castle. Unfortunately, we could have gone one stop further, then the walk uphill would have been much shorter.
We had come from the Tabán (the green southwest area outside the Castle), walked along Szarvas Terrace and then up the wide steps from Váralja street and through Ferdinand Gate.
We were very surprised by the lack of tourists, just us and another couple! Then I found out, not many people use this gate, but the other two main gates.
Once through Ferdinand Gate, we passed by the Mace Tower, the Great Bastion and the Palace Gardens. From here, it was up the stairs and to the History Museum in the Lion Courtyard.
(Part 3) Buda Castle is now the home of the National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galeria) and the Budapest History Museum, the opening hours of the buildings of the Buda Castle is same time as the opening hours of the Gallery and the Museum as well as the less known Hungarian National Library, which also often features exhibitions.
National Gallery opening hours: Tue-Sun 10 am – 6 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays)
Budapest History Museum opening hours: 1 March – 31 October Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, November 1 – February 29 Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 4 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays)
The courts, courtyards of the Buda Castle are open day and night everyday .It’s nice to walk around during the night because of the lighting make the atmosphere so beautiful.It’s one of the best scenery of the town both day and night.
There ‘s one small coffee shop outdoor and one inside the building.The out door one is behind The equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy that stands on the Danube terrace,(as seen on picture) and it’s opened on Monday as well.If you are in the area on Monday and need to use toilet ,it’ll be hard because the buildings are closed .Try in coffee shop,the nearest coffee shop that I can find ..just walk north towards funicular station ,keep walking pass “House of royal wines and cellar museum” (Királyi Borház és Pincemúzeum ) and you’ll see a nice coffee shop and restaurant on your right.
I went up to Buda castle from behind ,from parking area,not from the river front side.There 's the lift on Palota utca (the southeastern street outside the Castle) Actually I plan to walk to the front but I did the explore around the area and arrived the castle at the back side and saw the entrance with elevator.It’s not for free,it’s 200 Ft. one way .It’s free for libraries card holder ,disable,children age under 6 and EU citicens over 65.There’s a staff to assist in case you don’t have coin.The elevator brings you up to the Palace, in an exhibition hall displaying Buda castle history and then right to the Lion Courtyard.I took some times in the hall to read it's history ,very interesting.
Part 2…The palace existed for around three decades,on 30 December 1916, the building played a part in the coronation ceremony of the last Hungarian king, Charles IV of Hungary. After the 1918 revolution and the removal of the Habsburg dynasty, the Royal Palace became the seat of the new regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, Miklós Horthy. Horthy lived in the Krisztinaváros wing with his family between the years of 1920 and 1944. In this era the palace was the centre of Hungarian political and social life. On 16 October 1944 a Nazi German commando unit, led by Otto Skorzeny, occupied the Royal Palace and forced the regent to abdicate. Buda Castle was the last major stronghold of Budapest held by Axis forces (Germans and Hungarians) during the siege of Budapest between December 1944 and February 1945. The defenders of the castle attempted to break the Soviet blockade on 11 February 1945, but failed, leaving 90% of the soldiers dead on the streets of Buda. Heavy fights and artillery fire rendered the palace into ruins. All the furniture vanished, roofs and vaults collapsed, and the southern and western wings were burned out. The destruction was comparable to that of the great siege of 1686. Immediately after the war, archeological research was begun in order to unearth the remains of the medieval castle. The first reconstruction plan of the medieval remains was written by László Gerõ in 1950 and finalized in 1952. The reconstruction work was finished in 1966.
The new communist government of Hungary considered the Royal Palace a symbol of the former regime. Therefore, Hungarian leaders chose to thoroughly modernize the interior, and exterior of the palace again,as modernist architects had condemned the Hauszmann style as "too ornate".In 1952 the Hungarian government asked for help from Poland, because they had successfully rebuilt Warsaw, and other cities. The modernist dome was designed by Lajos Hidasi in 1961 after Italian Baroque models. The palace was rebuilt by 1966, but the interior spaces were ready only in the 1980s.
Now Buda Castle became a cultural centre, home to three museums and the National Széchényi Library.
It’s a long history about Buda castle.I tried to abridge the story but still a lot to share.I’ll devide it into 3 parts.First part are the old time stories...The first royal residence on the Castle Hill was built during the middle age by King Béla IV of Hungary between 1247 and 1265. It is uncertain whether it was situated on the southern tip of the hill or on the northern elevation. The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia, who was the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. Only the foundations remain of the castle keep, which was known as Stephen's Tower. After the Battle of Mohács, the medieval Kingdom of Hungary collapsed. The Ottoman Turks occupied the town in 1526. Although Buda was sacked and burned, the Royal Palace was not damaged.The Ottoman let the palace decayed. It was partially used as barracks, a storage place, and stables, and otherwise it stood empty.. In the era between 1541 and 1686, the Habsburgs tried to re-capture Buda several times,caused serious damage. Many buildings of the former Royal Palace were roofless and their vaults collapsed. Nonetheless the medieval palace mostly survived until the great siege of 1686. The medieval palace was destroyed in the great siege of 1686 when Buda was captured by allied Christian forces. In a heavy artillery bombardment, many buildings burned and collapsed. The Stephen's Tower, used as a gunpowder store by the Ottomans, exploded when hit by a single cannon.Although the walls mainly survived, the burned-out shell rapidly decayed from a lack of maintenance. Between 1702 and 1715, Stephen's Tower disappeared completely.
In 1715 a small Baroque palace was built according to the plans of Johann Hölbling but in 1723 the palace was accidentally burned down.
The Era of Maria Theresa…The relations between the Hungarian nobility and the Habsburgs were exceptionally good. The queen was grateful for this, the new Royal Palace became the symbol of peace and friendship between the dynasty and the nation. The plans of the splendid, U-shaped Baroque palace with a cour d'honneur were drawn by Jean Nicolas Jadot, chief architect of the Viennese court. In 1764 the Queen visited the palace, and allotted 20,000 thalers a year for the work, which recommenced in 1765 according to the plans of Franz Anton Hillebrandt. Hillebrand altered the cour d'honneur façade of the central wing in Rococo style . In 1769 the St. Sigismund Chapel was consecrated and the palace was finished the same year.
After that in 1769 the place being used as nunnery ,then 1777 being a university and in 1791 the palace became the residence of the new Habsburg palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1810 the palace was damaged by fire again. The palace was rebuilt between 1850 and 1856 by Josef Weiss and Carl Neuwirth. The 13-axis central wing was raised with a third storey and a squat attic-tower. The central risalit was decorated with a balcony of six colossal columns. With these changes, the former Viennese Baroque palace of Maria Theresa became considered a more austere Neoclassical Baroque building. Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria visited Buda Castle in 1856 and 1857. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Franz Joseph was crowned king of Hungary. The palace played an important part in the lavish ceremony, and was a symbol of peace between the dynasty and the nation. In the last decades of the 19th century Budapest experienced rapid economic development. Hungarian government intended to create a royal palace to match any famous European royal residence (especially their old rival, Vienna's Hofburg). The rebuilding spanned forty years, between 1875 and 1912, and caused sweeping changes in topography of the entire
Buda castle, also referred to as the Royal Palace or Royal Castle was first built in 1265 and has since gone through various regenerations; the castle was the historical home to the kings of Hungary and even today is rather austere compared to its predecessors, but it is still an imposing complex with its 300 metre long facade overlooking the Danube. The castle consists of a six wings arranged around the Lion Courtyard and is also home to the National Library, National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Admission: 1,500 Forints